I selected two pictures from the International Shuri-Ryu Association’s martial arts seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana last weekend to illustrate a point: karate is not just about standing up with an opponent and punching and kicking.
Yes, that’s where the concentration is, and to look at most of our kata, it’s easy to assume that’s all that’s going on. However, karate, and Shuri-ryu especially, can include takedowns, pressure point attacks, joint locks, pins/holds, and more. In the following photos, Shuri Cup tournament competitors can be seen demonstrating takedowns mixed into the bunkai (simply put, a demonstration of application) of the kata.
Mr Nate England takes down Mr Joey Johnston, a student and an instructor respectively at the Academy of Okinawan Karate.
While we do incorporate judo techniques into the curriculum, we don’t necessarily turn kata demonstration or sparring into a judo match. In both cases, the demonstrators took their opponent down, but they did not go to the ground with them. Sure, they could get down and submit the opponent in an armbar, but there’s already another opponent ready to come in and attack. As such, the demonstrators stayed on their feet while eliminating their opponent.
Mr Gustavo Lugo eliminates his opponent with a throat strike.
Grappling was a heavy component of the seminar, especially in the sessions I attended. I picked up several new techniques, especially some ground fighting techniques in Shihan Joseph Walker’s Haganah session. Fortunately a lot of the basic concepts were familiar to me, and that made it a lot easier to understand what was demonstrated. I saw and learned a lot, and I feel like my own karate will be better for it.
I only took pictures during the Shuri Cup, as the rest of the time I was too busy practicing to carry a camera. In the downtime between sessions I was too busy getting a drink and jotting notes. The Friday & Saturday sessions, as well as the tournament, took place in a Masonic Lodge hall, and with the available light I opted to use my 50mm prime lens. I knew I’d be shooting rapid fire to catch karate techniques, so I opted against RAW. I set a custom white balance using my instructor Sensei Miller’s gi as the white model, then fired away. I’m happy with the above pics, as I was mostly shooting to capture the moment rather than look for a great photograph. I only carried so much over to the practice hall and had no idea what to expect in terms of lighting, distance, crowds, etc. I also didn’t want to be the guy distracting competitors with a bright flash in their face, especially when they’re supposed to be blocking punches and then aiming their own punches and kicks back at their opponents.
You can see the rest of the set on Flickr, including pictures of the rest of the competitors and the judges. There was a lot of talent out there, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
All in all I had a blast, and finding a gyro joint serving both Kronos Gyros and Vienna Beef hot dogs until four in the morning was a nice bonus. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
About Mike Oliveri
Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. His Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Deadliest of the Species, was just reprinted by Evileye Books.